By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room
If you put the word exercise in the search box of this blog you will find we have numerous articles in our knowledge base on Alzheimer's and exercise.
I believe one of the most important things to do with or for a person suffering living with Alzheimer's disease is to exercise.
I wrote often about how exercise transformed my mother from a zombie to a person with a smile on her face. The transformation continue to amaze me each and every time.
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In part, exercise explains how I was able to transform my mother from being very mean and angry into a person more like her former self -- before Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's caregivers tell me their loved one can't exercise. The article below seems to refute this claim. Although, I have no real way of knowing in any given situation whether the person is or isn't capable of exercise. I understand there are many stages of dementia.
I can tell you this. My mother walked at the pace of a snail; she also had difficulty walking. You actually had to learn how to walk with her. It is very difficult to walk that slow. Usually when I told someone this they laughed -- they did not laugh after they tried it. In fact, they were then amazed that I could do it with ease. Well, I had to learn to do it.
When my mother walked she held on to anything she could grab. This included when I held her hand, or, when she held on to my arm. The walls, a hedge, the hood of car -- you name it.
Nevertheless, my mother could walk on a treadmill on her won .
Please note. My mother never used a walker. And, once I got her into an exercise regimen she never fell. She stopped falling.
I also worked my mother on weight machines in the gym.
Did I mention that I first took my mother into the gym was she was 88 years old? We were still going when she was 94 years old.
In a pilot study, agitation and functioning improved in a group of elderly nursing home residents suffering from severe dementia when they engaged in just 30 minutes of supervised exercise three times a week.
Edris Aman, a second-year medical student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, who conducted the study, told Reuters Health: "
Lots of people just assume that people with this kind of (severe) dementia cannot follow exercise instructions, but they can. It just takes more patience on the part of the exercise coordinator -- me in this case."
Aman said his study is unique because it involved people suffering from severe dementia who were living in the "special needs" units of two nursing homes. The 50 study participants, whose average age was 79, performed 15 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 minutes of weight lifting three times a week.
"Before and after" tests revealed that patients were far less agitated after completing the 3-week exercise program. They also showed significant improvement in their functional status -- specifically, the distance they could walk in six minutes.
Aman, who presented his research today at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society, said there didn't seem to be an improvement in depression with exercise; however, this was a "very low dose of exercise," he said, and "there are a lot of studies that are emerging" that do show a benefit of exercise on depression.
The take-home message, Aman said, is that
"exercise benefits all; even those with severe dementia can reap the benefits of exercise if people are patient enough."Please share this information in dementia support groups and with other dementia caregivers.
Original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room